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Letters for the Week of September 17, 2014

Readers sound off on the Oakland Zoo expansion and the revolving door of government and Big Business.


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The Oakland Zoo is a great asset for Oakland. The Oakland Zoo brings far more people and business to Oakland than does Knowland Park all by itself. It would be a great shame to allow the Oakland Zoo to stagnate and not be able to continue with this responsible and elegant expansion of one of Oakland's greatest treasures.

Elmano Gonsalves, Pleasant Hill

Preserve Knowland Park

Thank you, Sam Levin, for this well-researched and thorough article, and thank you, Express, for publishing it. I'm glad to have a better grasp of the situation and its many sides. I have supported keeping Knowland Park as it is from the beginning of this attempt to turn the land into a themed zoo and entertainment center at the expense of an endangered species and remaining native open space.

The preservation and conservation of the open native land for its intended public use in this heavily urban area is, in my heart and mind, more important, more pertinent and timely, than the zoo's proposal. More and more people want open space preserved for public enjoyment. And while I appreciate the zoo's business efforts to perpetuate its existence by trying to create something somewhat interesting, I just don't think what they have in mind holds up to what the public thinks is really necessary for Oakland, the Bay Area, and the state — and that is, the conservation and preservation of open space for public enjoyment and the preservation and conservation of endemic species. I hope that the Oakland City Council will agree when it comes time for their vote. I hope that future generations will be able look about and say, "This has been here from time immemorial and we thank them for saving it for us and for having the foresight and courage to stop further development of a poor idea."

Deb Inman, Mill Valley

Don't Build on Rare Habitat

The people of Oakland have been excluded from any debate about whether to give up the best part of their wildest park for a zoo expansion. The saddest part is that it doesn't have to be like this. There are non-destructive options. But zoo execs want nothing less than taking the best part of the park for themselves, even if that means excluding the public and harming wildlife.

Zoo execs want to put up a monument to wildlife that was driven out of the Bay Area by development — but they want to do this by developing a wild area. It's hard to teach kids about conservation when you don't understand even the most basic conservation principles. Real conservationists don't build on rare habitat, as zoo execs want to do; they preserve it. Real conservationists don't exclude the public and wildlife from wild lands, as zoo execs have proposed doing. Real conservationists don't apply for a take permit (another way to say, "kill permit") for a threatened species, as zoo execs have already done. If you have a choice between saving what's real and rare for future generations — a real bit of wild California that still exists right here in Oakland — or putting up a monument to wildlife that has vanished because of development, which do you choose?

Do you save the present for future generations, or do you ruin it to talk about the past?

Beth Wurzburg, Oakland

Who Will Benefit?

Thank you for your valuable and informative article on the planned Oakland Zoo expansion. Being a zoo neighbor, I've been aware of the controversy for some time. Besides the environmental and loss-of-open-space concerns, there's an issue I never hear discussed: How valuable is the costly expansion to the City of Oakland?  Are there significant economic and educational benefits? Will school children visit the new exhibits more than once? Will the new exhibits and gondola ride be thrilling enough to bring tourists to Oakland or more visitors to the zoo?

My guess is that the answer to these questions is "no." We have existing underutilized resources, such as the Oakland Museum of California (which has an emphasis on California natural science and history) and the Chabot Space and Science Center. It sounds to me as if the planned expansion is an idea gone out of control. Bigger isn't always better. Who are the true beneficiaries?

Eileen Feldman, Oakland

"Switching Sides," News, 9/3

We Need Stronger Laws

This story invites the question: Was Deputy Attorney General Benjamin Diehl making deals on whether to prosecute while making deals on his job offers from attorneys known to defend banks from prosecution? Well Geez Louise, get the dear princess herself, Ms. Kamala Harris, to defend him. There will always be a revolving door for attorneys to get rich after and during government service. So let's hear her rationale for doing nothing about it, besides not wanting to nix her next big meal ticket.

Clearly, until several people spend some years in jail, this won't stop. So let's help them — the more in jail, the better. A state law would help, like: If you work for the government, you can't work for a private firm for five years. No revolving door. Sort of like the separation between church and state. You know, separate the wolves from the hen house for five years. And when they cheat — and we know they will cheat — we can send them cigarettes in prison.


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